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By Dr. Marie Gould Harper
Program Director, Management, American Public University
Some people are still skeptical about the chances of remote job opportunities being successful. I don’t think working remotely is a fad. Technology can break down barriers and overcome stereotypes about how productive a remote employee can be.
When I hear critics say working remotely cannot succeed, I ask, “Why not?” During a recent LinkedIn conversation, one participant shared his concern. He said, “Working from home is a complicated issue — companies switch back and forth. It would greatly help if someone could figure out what it takes to make ‘work from home’ effective in a company.”
My response was that remote work is complicated because people make it that way. Many companies have not implemented the process correctly, do not effectively utilize technology and/or have not developed the leadership on how to properly manage the people and processes. There are still insecure leaders out there.
Work Environments Are Undergoing Changes and Businesses Need to Adapt
The reality of the workplace is that many disruptors are finding their ways into our economy. As a result, companies and employees must work harder to protect their market positions against their competitors. Also, employers need to hire and retain the best talent at all levels of a company in order to thrive.
There have been times when employees feel that they can’t be strategically positioned due to some market factor they believe is out of their control. But it is more helpful to a company to encourage those employees to come up with new, creative solutions like remote work.
For example, one argument against remote work is that we can’t be certain whether employees are being productive full-time away from the office. However, there are other questions that also deserve answers:
- How do you know your employees are being productive when they are in the office?
- Is the real issue that your managers want to be able to see their employees?
- How many times have you seen employees take multiple breaks or shuffle papers on their desk until it is time to go home?
Some of the arguments we make against remote working opportunities really do not have anything to do with the practice. Instead, we should focus on the deep-seated issues that need to be addressed on an individual basis.
Would you agree that the real problem is employee work ethic versus virtual work opportunities? Let’s not make problems where none exist. Instead, let’s confront the root cause issues to make the workplace a better environment, regardless of whether it is on site or in a person’s living room.
Recent trends for millennials suggest that they want to move beyond the local community. When they think of working remotely, they think of the ability to work from anywhere. While doing remote work at different locations, they have the opportunity to meet a variety of people. In some cases, traveling abroad for a year affords opportunities to connect with new and different people.
Gone are the days where employees were expected to be tied to a desk or an office in one location. I have had the pleasure of working remotely for companies that I considered to be learning organizations. Tasks and responsibilities were defined by deliverables and due dates.
Workers today tended to see time as a 24-hour opportunity to accomplish their assigned duties. Taking this approach is one more step toward balancing work and lifestyle while meeting organizational goals.
About the Author
Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Program Director of Management at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management, and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.
Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and influential leader, manifesting people skills, a systematic approach to problems, organizational vision and ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.
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